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The Latest on Lucie Hayden Harrison

Lucy Hayden Harrison's Class Book Entries

When you do genealogical research, you start to form impressions of people based on the public record - births, marriages, deaths, newspaper mentions... Lucy Hayden Harrison, the grand-daughter of Julius A. Hayden I, was all over the Atlanta Constitution, pouring tea at parties, throwing parties, attending parties... She went to Wellesley, where she was apparently the most popular girl on campus. She seems to have been a progressive and involved in doing good works - her efforts ranged from knitting things to raising money to support making workplaces more humane. All in all, seems like a good egg.

And then you send off to Wellesley for her Class Book entries (every 5 years, a class would issue a reunion book including updates from all the class members), and this is what you get:

1907 | Fifth year anniversary

Lucy Hayden Harrison. Peachtree Road, Atlanta, Ga.

Dixieland sends greetings to Wellesley 1902:
De melons in de patch jis a-waitin' fer you;
Ol' coon up in de tree say 'simmons soon be ripe;
De field's full o'cotton, de marshes full o' snipe.
0l' possum mighty scared, an' squint he black eyes tight,-
'E hear dogs a-barkin', an' can't get out er sight;
Smell 'Imself a-cookin' wid 'taters all aroun';
Mos' see you-all eatin' um when you-all done come down.
'S'pose you might find work here, an' sho-nuff work all day;
Mos' times work ain't nothin', but turns right into play; ~
De ol' sun am a-shinin', de birds dey callin' you,
Butterflies am playin', an' you jis hafter, too!

...and you are boggled.

But it makes sense. "Progressive" is a relative term. She wrote this 40 years after the Civil War; her grandparents owned slaves; for all of her grandfather's semi-secret Unionist learnings, her grandmother was a daughter of the South, this was Atlanta, and this sort of doggeral was considered clever and hip and funny in that society at that time. As a modern girl, 100 years later, the best reaction I could come up with was "Well, at least she didn't throw in a 'darky' or a 'plantation spiritual' into the poem."

By 1912, her 10 year anniversary, she'd become far more succinct:

"I have been having a beautiful time for the past three months in sunny Italy."
* March 29, 2003
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